Guest column by Tobias Kormind, managing director, 77 Diamonds
As the co-founder of 77 Diamonds, I meet many people who say we are putting the existence of many traditional British jewellers in jeopardy. While I’m flattered, I believe the real picture is far more complex.
With attention spans shorter than the life of a Snapchat picture, traditional media is not up to the task of connecting properly with consumers. Those pesky millennials are today’s only consumers and their obsession with the new spells Armageddon for the diamond industry. No wait, perhaps that was synthetic diamonds destined to bring a hailstorm on us all.
Then there are the online players who have commoditised diamonds and destroyed our margins. With over 90% of jewellery purchased in the UK now made abroad, Hatton Garden has been decimated. Even Birmingham powerhouse manufacturers don’t shy from making jewellery overseas.
77 Diamonds was lucky enough to be early to market with an online offering. We now employ over 40 UK staff, mainly gemmology and jewellery graduates and very experienced craftspeople in our workshop. We are part of the industry, not a threat to it.
As a large online player, we will continue to employ staff in the UK as we are proud to manufacture here. It’s true our prices are more aggressive than the high street, but that is a function of cut-throat online competition from both British and American players, long active in the UK, as well as emerging players, all ready to take our places if we stumble. They are larger, better funded and are investing heavily in online retail technology. They pose the real threat to the UK diamond jewellery industry.
The high street is not over, it just needs to adapt. BHS has died, but savvy omni-channel retailers like John Lewis are thriving. Value is more than price and not all customers are prepared to buy online. Real value remains in being local while offering unique designs, great customer service and quality products.
Define your own niche and ensure your position is defensible. The UK jewellery industry has a proud tradition. We are all its flag bearers. Let’s keep fighting the good fight.